Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Achieving Maximum Thrust: FUTURAMA Returns!, LOUIE makes me laugh!, and random rants.

... And I'm back. It's been a crazy couple of weeks, but I'm hoping to do a little more writing in the days and weeks ahead. What's been going on? Well, for one thing I went into total lockdown mode trying to finish this Modern Family spec script I've been working on. I was planning to use the script to apply for a writer's program, and the deadline for application submission was this week. So, as these things usually go, I got pretty behind on my writing and then had to really scramble to get everything together for earlier this week. I think I ended up with a pretty good script though, so, we shall see. I will say, in a way Modern Family is actually pretty easy to write for. The characters are already so well-defined that they practically write themselves, and the show isn't necessarilly too dense or multilayered. For a good MF episode, I feel like you need a solid plot and a good overarching theme, and then a couple of really funny scenes that the episode can sort of build out from. Also, the dialogue is fairly naturalistic, so that part tends to flow pretty easily. In any case, this whole writing program is somewhat of a longshot, but if nothing else, it forced me to sit down and write a new spec script, which will definitely come in handy, I'm sure.
However, the whole writing process was WAY more difficult than it should have been, mostly because of an ill-timed computer virus that was driving me INSANE this past weekend and into this week. I hate when there's anything wrong with my computer or other devices, and I tend to become obsessed with fixing these sorts of problems. It was especially painful because thevirus, or trojan, or malware, or whatever ... it was sending spam email from my Aerokid17 address to basically everyone on my contact list, and besides that it was doing all kinds of crazy stuff to my computer - interfering with Google searches, slowing things down, preventing certain programs from working correctly, etc. I tried a million things to kill the bug, and to be honest I'm not 100% sure yet if I succeeded. But, I seemed to be having some luck with this program called Dr. Web -- the only problem with it is that it scans for bugs in a protected mode during which you can't do anything else on your computer. And the full scan took like a full 24 hours -- WTF! Hopefully, it worked. Luckily, I had my trusty MacBook to write on while my desktop PC was scanning, but still, the whole thing was incredibly annoying and distracting. Lately I've really preferred doing writing while sitting at my desk using my desktop, so I was uber-annoyed at the whole situation.

THAT SAID ... I got the script done, so ... suck it, virus. Seriously though, who creates those things anyways? Like, who thinks it's a great idea to use a computer virus as a means to make money or whatever? "Okay, we'll send spam email to a bunch of people via a sabotaged email address, get them to click on a link to some spam website, and redirect their browser to go to all kinds of sketchy-looking windows." Like, does anyone get a browser-redirect and say "oh my, Google has pointed me towards this random but interesting website - let me use it to search the web and transact for goods and services!" NO! I mean, who are these people? And who runs these spam websites? Do they actually stand to gain more from a spam website than from a legitimate enterprise? I do not understand ... At least the people who just create viruses to cause anarchy I can sort of get - at least they accomplish what they set out to do. But for the people who actually use malware as some sort of underhanded business tactic? F you!

Anyways, it's pretty crazy ... tonight is the first time I've been able to just kick back and relax in a while. I barely know what to do with myself. Still, I've been trying to sneak in some quality TV time here and there. I generally try to avoid as much TV as possible during the summer - if anything, I like to catch up on things I've been meaning to check out on DVD / blu-ray / digital / whatever. To that end, I finally dove in neck deep to TRUE BLOOD Season 2 on blu-ray. I'm three episodes in and really enjoying things so far. It's funny because I bought Season 1 last year on a whim after a number of people recommended the show to me, and it took me a long time to warm up to it. The first several episodes were a bit too soapy for me, but then - bam - I was hooked. It seemed like the show just started to embrace its pulpiness and just started becoming crazier and more fun each week, with increasingly killer cliffhangers to end each installment. Season 2 seems to pick up right where S1 left off, and so far it's been a lot of fun.

Like I said, I try not to watch a lot of first-run TV in the summer, but, this summer is really laoded with some quality programming. First and foremost, one of the funniest shows of all time is - miraculously - back on the air. Yes, all hail the glorious return of FUTURAMA to the airwaves. Now, like many, I was a little bit worried about the show's long-delayed return. Would it be good? Would it be great? After the four direct-to-DVD movies, it was hard to say. The films were all decent to very good, but definitely lacked the same sharpness of the best TV episodes. Plus, look at a show like Family Guy. It was never the same once it came back from cancellation, never as funny (not even close) as it once was in its prime. Plus, there was a lot of messiness around Futurama's return - delays, false starts, and worst of all, rumors of the cast being replaced, which, luckily didn't end up coming to fruition. So ... it was a HUGE RELIEF to tune in to Futurama on Comedy Central and discover that ... HOLY CRAP ... one of the all-time great TV shows was back and possibly as good as it's ever been! Look, I think it will take a little time for the show to 100% get its groove back, but man, was it good to see Futurama back and back to being hilarious. Both back-to-back episodes had some of the best and biggest laughs I've seen on TV in a long time, and it was evident from the start that this was vintage Futurama. Maybe a bit edgier, sure, but this was the show we all loved (and that I named one of the BEST SHOWS OF THE DECADE) back in the day, the show that was brilliant and awesome even though it got screwed over again and again by FOX and their then-inept scheduling department. So, yeah, for those of us who scoured the airwaves to watch Futurama at 7 pm, who hung our heads low when the shwo wa preempted yet again for football, who spread the word and helped make this one of the all-time after-the-fact cult favorite TV shows - these episodes were, truly, one of those small little victories that can't help but make you smile. It's almost hard to believe that this show is actually back. You keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and hear some announcement that Bender will now be voiced by Gilbert Gottfried or something (KISS MY SHINY METAL AFFLACK!). But here it is ... and it is good. The humor was on-point, the characters spot-on, the wit and intelligence not dumbed-down for the braindead masses. Awesome. Just please, for the love of the lovely Leela, WATCH THE SHOW this time! Morbo commands you.

My Grade (for both eps): A-

- Also, I have to give a huge shout-out to LOUIE, the new comedy on FX featuring stand-up sensation Louie CK. I watched the two premiere episodes last night not quite knowing what to expect, and was fairly blown away. I loved the uncoventional format of the show - sort of a mix between a standard sitcom, sketch comedy, short filmmaking, and stand-up. It felt wholly unique and definitely came across as something different. But most of all, Louie was just plain funny, and it attacked your funnybone from a number of angles. The humor veered from observational to absurdist, and there were great bits in the stand-up segments as well as some laugh-out-loud moments in the shorts. I particularly loved the segment where Louie is on an awkward date that goes from bad to worse - it's well-travelled comedic territory, sure, but Louie has a way of taking standard sitcom-ish topics and nailing the inherent humor in them. Plus, the freestyle format of the show allows him to really let loose. That means the pacing can be whatever best fits the humor, and the humor can be fairly R-rated. Overall, I came away extremely psyched about this show -- this could be a real comedic gem, and I hope everyone gives it a try. Some of the funniest stuff I've seen on TV in a while.

My Grade (both episodes): A-

- What else? Well, I caught the TEAM COCO WRITERS SPECIAL on TBS, and thought it was a solid hour of stand-up comedy. It definitely got me psyched for the return of Conan to TV this November, and it also reminded me just how talented his staff really is. It's funny, because the special didn't even include a lot of Conan's more senior writers / performers, and yet it was still pretty damn funny. Worth checking out if you haven't seen it.

- I also caught the Science Channel's new series INTO THE WORMHOLE WITH MORGAN FREEMAN. I mean, come on - it's Morgan freaking Freeman hosting a show about sweet psuedo-science topics like time travel - what's not to like? Well, what's not to like is that the show, while well-produced and educational, basically winds up being somewhat of a downer, essentially concluding that time travel is barely even possibly theoretically, and most definitely not possible in practice. Still, I enjoyed the show, and between this and the recent Stephen Hawking series on Discovery, I've been on something of a time-travel kick lately. Screenplay ideas have been percolating, so, who knows. I don't think there's ever been a truly great, dramatic, science-based time travel movie ... so, maybe I'll be the one to write it.

- Now ... as for movies. I really haven't seen anything since Karate Kid and Toy Story 3. Just about everything this summer has been so ... blah. I've been slightly intrigued by movies like, say, Knight & Day, but even that just seems like it will be only okay. The main reason I'd see it is just my OCD with regards to seeing movies. This summer has just been sad in a lot of ways though ... I mean, Jonah Hex just depresses me to no end, and I haven't even seen the movie! But seriously, WTF Hollywood - how do you screw up Jonah Hex? Just make a badass Western movie. There's generic remakes galore, lifeless sequels (I think even the Twi-hards are just seeing these movies as big-budget girl-porn at this point), and adaptations that look to be utter crap (the reviews of The Last Airbender would be hilarious if they weren't so depressing -- what happened to the M. Night who made Unbreakable?!). The good news is that the second half of the summer probably can't be any worse than the first, and ... there are actually some very promising movies on the horizon. INCEPTION will hopefully kick some summer-movie-season ass. It's Christopher Nolan doing a sci-fi thriller -- 'nuff said. The man made two of the best movies of the decade - he's a visionary - and this movie will most likely rule it. So, there's that. But, I'm also really looking forward to Predators (cautiously optimistic that it will be badass), Scott Pilgrim (again, it's a can't-miss director -- Edgar Wright = I'm in), and yes, motherfreakin' Sylvester Stallone and THE EXPENDABLES. I mean, come on - has Stallone ever done us wrong? Thought not. This movie shall truly be 'over the top', and I mean that in the best way possible. I also still need to see Cyrus, badly, and man, I can't believe Splice is already out of theaters - I was really curious to check that one out.

- Aaaaaaaaand that's about all I've got in me for now. I'm tapped out from my hardcore script-writing, what can I say. But -- I've been meaning to get down some more comprehensive thoughts on all things E3, so stay tuned for that. Until then, up and atom.

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